sittin’ on the dock of the bay

Okay, there was no dock, and there was no bay, but Otis Redding was on his mind, Image“wastin’ time” and “watching the tide roll away.” It was late evening, gathering dark, and like Otis the loneliness wouldn’t leave him alone. He sat at a window above the Pacific Ocean and watched a smooth wet sliver of sand reflect the last light. A sharp  spit of dry sand thrust darkly out into the smooth sand, accentuating the smooth lit surface around it. He watched the waves roll in over the sand, one after the other, six or seven churning lines visible at once, a new one appearing a hundred yards out as the last one flooded the sand. He focused on the sand around the spit, gleaming as each wave sucked back into the oncoming wave left it wet. Each wave had a different character, left a different pattern of shining sand. Powerful or less powerful, straight on or pushed by another wave from the side, followed quickly by the next wave or arriving only after a long pause, each wave altered the brilliant band of sand in its own way. He squinted to narrow his focus, seeing only the wet sand and the dark sand that split it. 340 degrees of light, 20 of darkness. Or was it 335 / 25? He tried to ban the numbers. He wanted to experience only the shifting form, as directly as possible, without abstraction. It was pure abstraction. The wet sand fanned out expansively into a late-coming wave or completely disappeared under the rush of a big wave. Each wave left a new pattern, a pattern that had never existed and that had always been there. Each new form was predictable on the basis of the interaction of complex forces: geology, hydrology, gravity, the almost full moon that had not yet appeared in the sky, the weather over the Philippines, the wake of the fishing boat whose light had just winked on, the shivering movement of fish, the flapping of a moth’s wings. Each new form was unique. As he tried to see only the gleaming fan of sand and the dark spit in each new variation, his mind slipped into speculations about art. Isn’t this the basis of all art? he thought. Form and variation. Isn’t this music and poetry and dance and painting stripped to the essence? Each wave a new drawing, each wave a new dance, each wave a new artist? He squinted again. He wanted to see only the dark spit and the gleaming sand. He wanted to see.

About Scott Abbott

I received my Ph.D. in German Literature from Princeton University in 1979. Then I taught at Vanderbilt University, BYU, and Utah Valley State College. At Utah Valley University, I directed the Program in Integrated Studies for its initial 13 years and was also Chair of the Department of Humanities and Philosophy for three years. My publications include a book on Freemasonry and the German Novel, two co-authored books with Zarko Radakovic (REPETITIONS and VAMPIRES & A REASONABLE DICTIONARY, published in Serbo-Croatian in Belgrade and in English with Punctum Books), a book with Sam Rushforth (WILD RIDES AND WILDFLOWERS, Torrey House Press), a "fraternal meditation" called IMMORTAL FOR QUITE SOME TIME (University of Utah Press), and translations of three books by Austrian author Peter Handke, of an exhibition catalogue called "The German Army and Genocide," and, with Dan Fairbanks, of Gregor Mendel's important paper on hybridity in peas. More famously, my children are in the process of creating good lives for themselves: as a model and dance/yoga studio manager, as a teacher of Chinese language, as an ecologist and science writer, as a jazz musician, as a parole officer, as a contractor, as a seasonal worker (Alaska and Park City, Utah), and as parents. I share my life with UVU historian Lyn Bennett, with whom I have written a cultural history of barbed wire -- THE PERFECT FENCE (Texas A&M University Press). Some publications at http://works.bepress.com/scott_abbott/
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